Posted: 12 Aug 2005 04:01
OPERATION SPEARHEAD I
DAMBOLIM 2:40 AM
It had been raining all evening, the wind was gusty, and the air bore the smell of the earth – the parched earth had finally received succor. The premonsoon showers had finally arrived. It was a dark cloudy night which was filled with the humming of a thousand insects and throaty roars of a hundred frogs, belching out their music.
Lieutenant Commander Ajay Kumar stood inside the partially open door of a hanger staring out into the dark night. The rain was down to a just a drizzle now, the air much cooler. He watched the Gulfstream land and slowly taxi up to the hanger on a faraway corner of the main ATC tower. This was the area, the Navy used for its operations. The runway was still shared between Civilian and the naval aircraft. (This had raised the hackles of the navy brass before, but in the absence of another large airstrip – except Panaji 30 Kms north, there was no other place for the fairly large number of chartered and regular airline flights to land in Goa. There was always the talk of plans for a hi-tech, exclusively commercial airport to cater to the ever increasing hoards of tourists, hippies, and the like, that came to Goa – incessantly. But just like all things sarkari, these remained – just plans, stuck up in the phase of land acquisition). His thoughts went back to the events of the evening – it had happened so suddenly…
* * * * * --------------------------- * * * * * * *
Ajay had just been sitting down to have dinner with the family, when he received a call from the CO to come to HQ pronto. He had rushed to the office, to find everyone very quiet and tense. There in the low lit room what he heard had made him forget the dinner, he had missed. The team from New Delhi had arrived an hour ago after the CO had received a call form CNS no less. National security advisor, A S Salgotra, two navy guys from Naval headquarters - one from naval intelligence. The other two belonged to RAW and IB. After brief introductions, they had proceeded on to the OPS room, a room filled with whiteboards, maps, TV monitors, a dozen phones and communication equipment – it resembled the innards of a satellite launch center. Everyone occupied seats at the large conference table, strategically inclined along the room so that everyone could get a good view of the main screen. A technician was already readying the presentations.
Salgotra began without delay. “Well we all know, operations against pakistan are about to get into high gear. The navy with the INS Viraat carrier battle group has been redeployed to the western sector and has been tasked with a complete naval blockade of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. While things have progressed fairly smoothly uptil now, we have just received some intelligence which is extremely interesting, and vital enough for us to be meeting here. Mr. Bose, from RAW, will bring us up to date”.
Bose nodded to the technician and began his story. “Ever since the Pakistanis developed a nuclear option, their problems have been related to actual deployment of these weapons. Uptil 1997, when they finally mated a weapon with their North Korean missiles, their weapons were for use only to be toss dropped from an F 16, or a cargo C 130, in what would essentially be a suicide mission.”
“Our earlier estimates about the inability of their weapons to withstand the stresses of a ballistic missile flight stand corrected. Apparently their Chinese friends had passed on a much advanced design for a missile compatible weapon”.
“As we know, the Pakistanis are deploying their Shaheen series missiles on road mobile launchers, which keep changing position, very frequently. While we have had to deploy considerable human assets, to keep track of each launcher, and to inform us whenever the order to fire came – this was easy until last year, because their President would ring up the Crops Commander in the vicinity of each launcher, then an order to launch would proceed to the officer in charge of the launcher, who would confer and confirm with the president himself, and proceed onto launch phase.”
“As you can see, this rather cumbersome arrangement could be easily intercepted at several levels by us, and the Pakistanis realized this, and so they have very recently deployed a satellite based launch confirmation system. The transponder is on board one of their communication satellites, and the signal is believed to be encrypted with the Pakistan TV signal. The encryption equipment and decoders have been provided – you guessed it – by their all weather friends. A decoder is deployed now with each launcher. As soon as the signal goes out, the decoders light up and the Pakistanis will launch – we will never know beforehand, there will be little warning”. He waited for this to sink in, then proceeded, “It is extremely vital for us to get our hands on one of their decoders – A very large chunk of our intelligence assets have been tasked with this job – with no success – that is uptil now.”
Bose nodded to the technician, and he projected a photograph on the main screen. “This man is Dr. Feroze ahmad khan, Senior Scientist at Khan Research Laboratories. He’s done his Phd in Computer sciences from an American university. A fairly brilliant fellow, with a few inventions of his own too. He heads a division dealing with computer systems and electronics integration at KRL, mostly mundane non nuclear stuff. Unfortunately for him, he is an ahmediya muslim. This has resulted in him languishing at a mediocre position in the food chain, of what is the Pakistan nuclear industry. Apparently his inventions got registered in his bosses name, they got all the credit (and the Money) while he just sucked up. Well, he has been very helpful to us over the last several years and we have just been informed by our contact that he may just help us with that decoder business - his condition – he needs evacuation form Pakistan, and asylum in India.
“The, err… the RAPE class, (** Apparently this terminology had come to stick with the Indian intelligence - military establishment, who, it is believed were in the habit of visiting a certain forum on the net), Err… as I said, the more affluent Pakistanis, have moved their families and monetary assets out of Pakistan, ever since this Bangladesh problem erupted. Of late almost everyone seems to be traveling to Europe, having extended stays there. Our good Khan Sahib has also sent his wife and kids on a European soiree to France, where they are in touch with the Indian embassy.”
“Dr. Khan is now in Ormara, overseeing the setting up of a hardened bunker to house and service the nuclear missile launchers. He informs us that some new satcomm equipment has just arrived, which we might be very interested in…”
Bose was interrupted midway by Salgotra, he looked straight at Ajay. “We are here at MARCOS HQ, Cochin today, because IB informs us about an interesting scenario prepared by Cdr Ajay, a few months back, which entailed the evacuation of some embassy officials by sea from a costal town. We were just wondering, if it is applicable in our situation here”.
Two hours later after going through maps and satellite pics, and the various intel data available, a call was made to the PM’s Office. Salgotra said just a few words, “We have a go”.
Now was the turn of the Navy guys to kick in, CO sahib addressed Ajay. “Your QRS group is now activated. The operation is designated “SPEARHEAD”. You are to move to dabolim stat, where you will receive the equipment form BARC, you will then proceed on as per plan, and be in a position to rapidly deploy pending final go ahead. Jai hind! And go kick some Ass Ajay”.
Ajay was a bundle of energy, he half ran to his jeep. A quick stopover at the officer’s mess to get his junior, Lt Ravinderjeet, who as usual was watching a soap on TV. Ajay gently tapped Ravinder’s shoulder and motioned him to step outside.
“Evening Boss, Kya ho raha hai sir?”
Ajay spoke slowly, almost smiling, “Get ready Ravinder, we are going to Pakistan…”
OPERATION SPEARHEAD II
Ajay made a small detour to the barracks to ready his men, then headed home for a quick bite and to get his gear. He found rashmi, his wife, waiting at the door. Ten minutes later he was ready, saying his goodnights to shreya – his 2 year old daughter, and rashmi. He drove to the helipad, munching a toast – better have something to eat, it was going to be a very long night. Rashmi watched him leave. They had been neighbors since they were kids, gone to the same school. Ajay had joined the navy, then Special Forces training, and finally posted with the marine commando force.
Ajay found his men loading gear onto a Seaking helo that would take them. Soon enough, the seven men – four of them sporting beards, were airborne.
A thunderclap brought Ajay back to the present tense. The Gulfstream had come to a stop right in front of the hanger, its door already open and three men carrying small briefcases disembarked. A few handshakes later, they proceeded to a room on the side of the hanger.
“This is a Geiger Muller counter. It has been enhanced at BARC so that it works at an enhanced range. It also samples the type of isotope which is emitting the radioactivity. It records everything onto a SD/MMC card inside. Please use it in the area around the bunkers, and please, try and bring it back in one piece”.
The next briefcase was opened to bring out a small contraption, which resembled a transistor, with a telescopic antenna. “This has just been flown in from Hyderabad. The DRDO is still testing it. It is called the PRITAM - ‘Precision Targeting Module’. It will emit a beacon-signal which would precision-guide a missile strike to its location. The CEP would be about a meter or so. It will be in a standby mode and radio silent, and will activate when the missile is about a minute away. As soon as we get clearance, we will launch a brahmos strike at your target. I would advise you all to clear the area well in time.”
Shake hands and best of lucks were done with. Ajay carried the briefcases back to the seaking inside the hanger, motioning to the pilots to get a move on. The engine kicked up and the helicopter made its way out of the hanger, its tail rotor starting up. A few minutes later they were airborne, headed northwest, into the Arabian ocean.
Two hours later, the chopper reached their first stop - the massive flight deck of INS Vikramaditya, (Formerly the Admiral Gorshkov), now stationed just off Bombay high. Even at this early hour, two fully loaded Mig 29s, their pilots in the cockpits were on the flight deck, one on the take off ramp, ready to take off in a minute’s notice, the other on standby, ready to follow. These were unsual times, the carrier and its battle group were on high alert. The chopper and its occupants refueled, then took off northwards. “Bad weather ahead” announced the pilot, as it began raining quite heavily, the wind quite stormy.
10:30 AM Somewhere in the Arabian Ocean
By the time they reached, their next stop, the rain had intensified, and the weather took the shape of a tropical storm, with near gale force winds, the sea very rough. The seaking’s engine sputtering, and fighting against the wind. Except for the occasional thunderclaps, it was now quite dark outside. The passengers of the chopper saw first the lights, then the heaving silhouette of INS Ganga – the guided missile destroyer. The ship itself shook very precariously in the nearly two meter high waves, more so, because it had slowed down to allow the chopper to land – its stabilizers now no longer active. One of the destroyer’s seaking had had to launched a few minutes ago, to allow the MARCOS chopper to land ( At 4000 tonnes, the Godavari class destroyers could house two seakings – but just about. No allowance for another chopper to land on in this weather). The powerful wind and rain, and the near darkness, made their landing on the flight deck a rather hair raising job. The pilot finally managing to land on their sixth attempt, the landing crew securing the chopper with cables even as they landed. The commandoes on board the chopper watched on, not envying the landing crew’s job – the way the ship rolled and pitched, the landing crew faced near-certain death should one of them wash off into the ocean.
Fourty minutes, hot coffee, fuel and good byes later, they were underway, traveling north to rendezvous with their insertion vessel – INS Shankul - the fourth of the T 209-1500 ‘Sishumar Class’ submarine. Commissioned in 1994, the German design boasted of a rescue pod, high speed and maneuverability, higher levels of crew comfort, and above all the ability to go about its job silently – an absolute must for this mission. The Shankul itself was due for an upgrade (Her sister ships had already completed the upgrade which involved among others, the addition of a new section and a Fuel cell system, to provide AIP – and increased duration of operation. She would be out of service for the better part of a year, and she was to head to Mazagaon dockyard ltd, in about a month’s time. But first, important things lay at hand.
INS Shankul had been patrolling the depths of the Arabian sea, 200 Kms off pakistan’s coastline, when her VLF equipment came alive. Cdr A N Nair commanding the Shankul had been ordered to rendezvous with an aerial vector at point zeta, and proceed as per further orders. “Aerial Vector indeed” thought Nair, a chopper rendezvous this far north, meant only one thing – another one of those MARCOS ops to Pakistan. It was almost always spine chilling going so deep into enemy waters, waiting for the commandos to get back, then beating a hasty retreat into the cold depths of the ocean.
The seaking arrived at the submarine. It had taken a wee bit longer to locate the sub, because the sub captain had ordered no flares to be fired. Just a red beacon light marked the sub’s presence. The Lt Cdr Ajay, Lt Ravinderjeet and five men along with bags of guns and ammo, and two deflated and compactly folded Gemini boats, descended onto the sub. The gemini’s were lodged inside a compartment on the outer hull of the sub, just fore of the sail, while the commandoes proceeded inside. The sub itself dived and proceeded at 18 knots due north to the launching pont.
Now was the time for the MARCOS guys to get some sleep. They were to be up and awake at night. The sub continued its northward journey, the final 50 odd kilometers, creeping at 3 knots, sonar on passive mode, close to the sea floor – coming to periscope depth only once to signal their arrival off Ormara. Cdr. Nair took the sub to within 8 Kms of the shoreline, when night fell. The final journey of the raiding team would be on speed boats, when they would be at their most vulnerable. The final go ahead had arrived a few minutes ago.
A sailor brought a print of a VLS message that was just coming in. Cdr. Nair read it then handed it over to Ajay. The submarine ascended to periscope depth. The periscope and the surface search radar emerged just above the sea, confirming no contacts. The sonar also reported no contacts. “Looks clear to me, time to rock n roll boys” Nair peering into the periscope, “Go kick some ass Ajay, Jai hind.”
OPERATION SPEARHEAD – III
NAU SENA KAMAAN
Confidential Task Order 2008/BR/1124/01 20:07 Hrs
To: INS Shankul
From: DG Operations Nau Sena Kamaan
Sub: Operation Spearhead
• Operation spearhead is now status green.
• Complete radio silence will be maintained by all involved platforms during the operational phase.
• Satellite based secure communication shall however continue to be used for necessary communication and coordination.
• Ingress team will continue to use local loop communication in addition to satellite communication for coordination with sea based platforms as necessary.
• INS Rajput (D 51) and INS Veer (K 91) will provide necessary cover on a need basis.
• Two airborne platforms are requisitioned form the Indian Air Force to provide Missile cover at the termination of the mission
Upon receipt of the final go ahead, Lt Cdr Ajay, Lt Ravinder, and their team of five men completed their final checks. Even as the submarine ascended to periscope depth, two divers from the sub descended into the waters and opened the compartments housing the Gemini boats on the outer hull of the sub. They attached high pressure air lines to the boats, and then released the fully inflated boats which came up on the sea and floated around the sub. Cdr Nair, having confirmed no Air or sea contacts, brought the sail of the sub just above the waterline.
It was a dark overcast night. The breeze outside was already picking up and blowing with a humid heaviness – “It’s going to rain all night” thought Ajay. Even in the pitch darkness he could see the wave tops break into white foam because of the wind. The commando team carefully loaded their gear on the two boats, then as the silenced outboard motors revved up, they speeded their way towards the shore. INS Shankul descended back into the depths of the dark ocean and a few minutes later was exiting the area to a safer waiting point 15 Kms off shore.
The seven men on the boats watched the sea shore arrive through the Night vision scopes of their guns. There was no talk – henceforth all differences of rank, creed, - all divisions dissipated. What remained was camaraderie as pure and simple as it gets. Tonight they had only each other to depend on. Their lives depended on each other. Each member of the team avoided thoughts of not making it back. The dress code for tonight’s party was somewhat distinct. Black Pathan Suits, black woolen skull caps along with small backpacks, where each member carried the tools of his trade – Except Ramanna – the sniper. He carried a long bag, which resembled a golf set containing a PSG -3 sniper rifle with Night vision telescopic sight. The other team members carried silenced Tavor TAR 21 5.56mm commando assault rifles - two magazines taped upside down, silenced 9mm pistols and grenades and several clips of ammo. Ravinder fingered the ring of one of the grenades – “hope it won’t come down to these” he thought – having to use grenades meant a mess-up, a last resort when things were not going smoothly. Also being the eternal romantic, he preferred the old MP5 rifles – he had gotten so used to them during training. “When you fire an MP5, you fired something” he mused – the Tavors were much smoother – soundless except for a hissing sound, almost no kick on firing – like a video game shooter, but the rate of fire was awesome and the weapon itself fitted to the body like a dream – like it was an extension of the self. They all wore closed circuit earphones and small collar mikes, carefully concealed for the casual viewer. Ajay carried in addition a GPS receiver, accurately pinpointing their location down to 2 meters.
The boats jumped on the choppy water, and the crew held on. The last kilometer was covered using oars. No sense drawing unnecessary attention. The boats were refueled and hidden amongst a thorny shrub on a small beach. Ramanna – the sniper vaguely recognized this area. He had been here the year before…
The Gawadar – Karachi coastal highway is a four lane highway build with Chinese assistance, to provide a land route linking the Gawadar deep sea port and the economic capital Karachi. At this site the highway lay half a kilometer inland. At 9 PM, there was unusually heavy traffic. A large convoy of civilian trucks carrying stickers “On Army Duty”, with Pak army escorts, carried freshly unloaded ammo (Generously provided by Pakistan’s middle-east friends in the middle of a war) from Gawadar port to forward posts, where the pakistan army was just about managing to hold onto their last positions facing a massive Indian assault. The commando team let the convoy pass, then made their way further inland, along a road to camp ormara – an army establishment very close to Ormara airport.
Camp Ormara bore a deserted look. All fighting elements, having been moved to fighting formations on the frontline. What remained was a ghost staff manning the outpost. In command was Major Ehsan Mallick. For an officer the rank of a Major to man an empty outpost of about 40 odd men was indeed intriguing. The big secret was that the good major was a distant cousin of the Chief marshal law admininstrator and President of Pakistan Gen. Kareen Khan. Maj. Malik was a wayward youth, raised in the lap of luxury in feudal Punjab. He had picked up the drinking habit very early indeed, and had progressed on to hardcore narcotics. Seeing their son losing his footing, his father had approached his relative and young ehsan’s cousin, Kareen, a brigader at that time, to enlist him into the army. Always on the lookout for a trusted hand, Brig. Kareen Khan had guided the career of Ehsan through the Pakistan military academy and beyond. Despite review after review reporting his unsuitability and behaviour unbecoming for an officer of the pakistan armed forces, Ehsan was made the ADC to the president when the now General had ascended to the throne of Chief of army staff (This was done with the obvious motive of keeping a close tab on the activities of the president). Major Ehsan’s stay as the ADC was however rather shortlived, when he had gotton drunk at their regimental raising day ball and tried to molest the young daughter of a Brigader. What was worse, was that he had been caught in the act by the girl’s father. But this was the COAC’s cousin we were talking about. Overnight, young Ehsan had been banished from the scene and been posted to Ormara, four years back, and was there ever since. The officers back at the regiment heaved a sigh of relief, that the good major would not be given the onerous task of leading soldiers into battle – ‘god only knew what other gadbad-shadbud he would do’.
True to his nature, tonight was no different. Major Ehsan was drunk, and was in the company of two women, at his quarters. The general tenor of the camp therefore was one of leisurely routine. The MARCOS team arrived at the nearly empty Officer’s mess, where the Engineers were allotted their quarters. The mess itself was outside the barbed wire fence of the camp. While the rest of the team gave cover, Lt Cdr Ajay, carrying just his pistol, with Chief Petty Officer A. N. Bose, who hid his Tavor under his Pathan waistcoat, confidently strolled into the mess and knocked on the door of room 06. Dr. Feroz Ahmad Khan, opened the door, a quizzical look on his face, which turned to horror as realization dawned as to the identy of his visitors. Ajay and Bose brushed him aside and quickly entered the room, pulling him along.
“Room clear hai”, reported Bose.
“Dr. Khan hum aap ke liye aaye hain. Aap ke paas haamare kaam ka kuch saaman hai?” (Dr. khan we have come for you. I believe you have something for us)
“Aap Log…” Khan.
“Samaan kahan hai?”Ajay. (Where is it?)
Khan was already sweating, his heart pounding. He was either going to die for this or would nearly die doing this.
“The… the equipment is inside the camp, in the CO’s safe. We have to hurry. A Missile launcher with troops is headed here for repairs. They can be here at any time.”
Ajay did not like what he heard. Each launcher was protected by about 50 heavily armed troops including at least ten commandos. The CO’s office coming into the picture had just made things messy.
“OK, you pack up – One briefcase, only your papers and CDs.” Bose ripped apart Dr Khan’s Laptop with his knife and tore out the hard disk. “No false moves,” Ajay motioned to Bose, “He will be covering you.”
Five minutes later they quietly walked out of the mess and headed towards the fenced camp. Ramanna, slipped away to climb atop a water tower, forty feet up. Set up his rifle and night vision scope and waited. From his vantage point he had an excellent view of the camp, more importantly the Office barrack directly faced him. He could provide very good cover.
The camp itself was quite dark, and only lit up in patches with sodium vapour lamps – the army was on war alert! The team split into three groups after they cut through the fencing. Ajay and Raju, Ravinder and Afzal proceeded parallel to each other, amidst a row of storehouse barracks, each covering the other group, hand held thermal imagers guiding them. Bose, Chauhan and Dr Khan followed a good ten paces behind them.
Ramanna reported at least two armed guards, on the main gate, two more opposite the office barracks. One soldier patrolled the road with a torchlight and stick. The dogs started the action as soon as they smelled the commandoes. Barking away and rushing towards them. The patrol guard stopped and started to wave his flashlight in their direction, even as they stiffened against the barrack walls.
As soon as the guard was in the darkness Ravinder’s Tavor hissed, two bullets tearing away the guard’s forehead. His fall was controlled by Afzal, who dragged him away. Ahead lay a courtyard, beyond which two guards chatted away in front of the office complex. A similar fate befell the two guards, the two teams pouncing on the bodies, as soon as their brains were blown out.
Subedar major Imtiaz Beig was dozing off in a room adjoining the CO’s office. He was rudely shaken up with a hand covering his mouth and a gun pointed on his face. Ajay whispered, “CO sahib ka safe”. Imtiaz picked up a bunch of keys from the key rack, and quietly lead them into the office, opening the safe.
“Bose, aa jao idhar”, whispered ajay into the microphone. Bose and Dr Khan entered the room. Dr. Khan removed a Brown briefcase from the safe and opened it. Inside lay a small laptop computer with an attached satellite phone. Ajay closed the briefcase, while Raju started to remove other files from the safe and put them into his backpack.
It all happened suddenly, the mess up they feared. Yet another guard suddenly rounded their corner and his flashlight caught two figures bearing guns wearing Pathan suits. “Kaun hai wahan” the guard shrieked, retracing his steps to get back into the corner, even as both Ravinder and Afzal fired. A few bullets got the guard dead center, but a few rammed onto the tin barrack wall behind. The armed guards at the main gate heard the commotion, one of them running in their direction, shouting “Kya Hu…” The poor fellow never completed his sentence. Ramanna’s sniper rifle tore opened his chest with a thud – the guard suddenly convulsing, all his joints flexed, the fingers too, which squeezed the trigger of his Kalashnikov, letting off a hail of bullets into the dark night. His comrade watched from the gate too shocked to react. Two seconds later he joined his colleague as a bullet blew opened his neck.
Inside the office, Subedar Imtiaz pushed Raju, dived across the room and removed a pistol from a drawer in one go. Gunfire erupted in the room as the commandos beat a hasty retreat, dragging Khan and the briefcases alongwith them. Bose threw in a grenade, closing the door behind him as they all dived for cover. The grenade exploded with devastating effect, setting the room on fire.
Suddenly it was all quite again.
But the damage had been done. A few armed soldiers began pouring out of their barrack. A distress call was made over the wireless at the armed forces frequency about ongoing firing at Ormara camp – possible intruders.
The commandos beat a hasty retreat to the periphery of the camp, engaging soldiers as they were encountered. Ramanna kept taking out bogies as and when they appeared in the clear. At one particular moment someone spotted the flame of the bullet leaving the sniper rifle atop the tank, and so everyone started firing at the water tank. Ramanna retreated backwards, but not before he had taken out two more targets. A sudden burning sensation ripped through his left shoulder, as he fell backwards, another bullet hit him on the abdomen. “Mujhe goli lag gayi” he informed. “Just hold on, we’re coming”.
The commandos reached the newly constructed missile launcher bunkers. It was a concrete structure, built partly underground, projecting only a few feet overground. They entered by a side gate, and closed the door behind them – a few minutes of respite. Inside were two missile launchers, one of them carrying a conventional HE warhead Ghauri missile, the other empty. Ajay took out the Geiger-muller counter and gave the bunkers a quick check. “Nothing here” he announced. “OK time to split”. They exited, and Inside were two missile launchers, one of them carrying a conventional HE Ghauri missile. Ajay set up the Targeting module on top of the bunker. They reached the perimeter fence, got out and came onto a road.
“Ravinder, Afzal, go get Ramanna. We’ll split up and meet on the main road or at the beach” Barked Ajay, then almost shouted into his saathi terminal, “This is Spearhead, Targeting module is in place, taking moderate fire, evacuating target area. We need missile cover NOW.”
“Roger Spearhead. Please evacuate target area ASAP. Expect fireworks ETA 4 minutes”
OPERATION SPEARHEAD IV
“Roger Spearhead. Please evacuate target area ASAP. Expect fireworks ETA 4 minutes”
Almost immediately, two Su 30s flying over the Arabian Sea, some 200 Kms off Pakistan’s coast let loose the single Air launched Brahmos, each was carrying. The missiles fell free of their moorings for a second and half, then with controlled explosions, the air intake cover blew and separated from the front. The dark Arabian Sea lit up as the massive ramjets ignited with a loud roar, the missiles leaped forward like uncontrollable horses. The onboard guidance computers recognized their fellow and assigned targeting data and trajectory amongst themselves. Tonight, on the missile computer motherboard was an additional card, which processed terminal guidance data obtained from the encrypted high frequency targeting module.
Through the night vision sight, Ravinder and Afzal could see soldiers moving towards the water tank, they quickly took them out with short controlled bursts. A jeep approached them which was unceremoniously stopped after their occupants - soldiers were cleaned out. On the seat by the driver slumped across was Major Ehsan Mallick dozing off, horribly drunk. He had been informed that his unit was under attack and was on his way to oversee his brave men vanquish the enemy. Ravinder recognized him, seeing the condition he was in; he dragged him out and kicked him into a ditch. Afzal ran up the tank while Ravinder covered the base of the water tower.
Ramanna was sitting propped up against a pipe, breathing heavily.
“Ramanna, ghar nahi jana kya?” Afzal
“Chal Chal” Ramanna.
Afzal rappelled down the tower, with Ramanna on his shoulders. They climbed onto the jeep, and picked up the other five on the way to the coast.
“How is Ramanna?” Ajay.
Ramanna managed a weak smile. Ajay tore open his shirt. With a torch he could see the shoulder wound was more or less a flesh wound, but the bullet had penetrated the right upper quadrant of his abdomen. He suspected the worst. The right lobe of the liver was probably shattered - associated bowel injury probably present too. Both would kill him – the former would bleed him to death, the latter would result in gross fecal contamination, and push him into unsalvageable septic shock. A veteran of a thousand missions, ajay took out his med kit, asked for the jeep to be stopped inside a field, away from the road. He gave Ramanna an antitetanus vaccine, and a tetglobin shot. Injection Tramadol 100mg (For the pain – that would invariably come later), set up an IV drip and let it run in rapidly adding 1 gm of magnamycin in the end, then let another bottle of Normal Saline go in slowly. This guy needed to be inside an OT fast.
-------------------- --------------------------- ------------------
The distress call from camp Ormara had resulted in forces being dispatched to the site. A cobra attack helicopter, which was refueling at the nearby airport, took off to patrol the area. The Cobra had been assigned to cover the arms convoy enroute form Gawadar and was carrying two 40 mm rocket pods, in addition to its chain gun.
-------------------- --------------------------- ------------------
Just as they got ready to go again, the ground trembled, the two Brahmos passed almost directly overhead, hugging the treetops. The massive sonic boom that followed merged with the sound of the missiles striking their targets.
Now, the Brahmos travels at nearly 3 times the speed of sound. The missile weighs a little less than 3 tons excluding the warhead. Three tons of steel hitting an object at three times the speed of sound will annihilate – the dastardly Indians had put in a 200 kilo bunker busting warhead into this monster.
“As the Shiva danced the tandava… The Yama waited on the sidelines, atop his steed, rope in hand, watching mere mortals succumb to the might of the lord, his eyes shining, a smile on his lips…”
A 15 foot charred crater was all that remained of the hardened bunkers – a 200 meter radius area from the site of impact including the entire camp was flattened out – everything – trees, construction, in that radius, burned to the ground. A massive fire raged at a fuel dump in the periphery of the camp.
The commandos meanwhile got onto their speed boats and headed off to sea, even as INS Shankul came upto periscope depth awaiting their return. Cdr Nair brought the submarine’s sail over the water as the speed boats reached it. The wounded were brought on board first and received due attention. In the submarine’s bridge, someone announced,
“Airborne vector, bearing 4 O Clock, heading towards us, 10 Kms approximately. Looks like a chopper”
Cdr Nair faced a difficult choice. He could close the hatch and dive immediately, and get the hell out of here. On the other hand three commandos and the scientist were still in the water, taking them all in would take another 5 minutes.
He decided, he would take the risk –this mission, all this effort would be lost if he closed the hatch. On the other hand the chopper (Which had by now been identified as a Cobra by the IFF) represented a serious threat. Nair ordered up a guy with a shoulder fired Igla Launcher.
Flying officer Abdul Hamid, flying the Cobra had just circled Camp Ormara, when his radar receiver detected a radar emission out into the sea. He quickly turned around to investigate. By now his radar was picking up a target about 12 Kms off shore. His FLIR could see something on the sea surface. His eyes widened when he came in close enough to recognize the sail of a submarine. Too stunned to speak, his hand pressed the trigger – his chain gun erupted with deadly ferocity spraying hot lead all over the water. He passed the sub now switching on the rockets.
Ajay pushed Khan and all other occupants into the water, taking cover behind the sail as the hail of bullets crossed them. Some hit the sail making small squash ball sized indents on the steel. “Missed, Ha!” he shouted.
The cobra made a 180 degree turn for the endgame, 40 mm rockets on line. Abdul Hamid was just lining up the chopper to the target, when his cockpit lit up with a red light, the computer shrilling, ‘WARNING WARNING…’ His copilot yelled, “Incoming Missile!” Hamid looked up to see a white tail of smoke rushing directly at him.
Time stopped. Abdul Hamid was 10 Kms out into the sea, and he could just about swim – not that it mattered any more. Tears welled up into his eyes as the picture of his little daughter and wife flashed before his eyes. He pressed the trigger with all his might several times, before the Igla–M, not fooled by the flares that the chopper deployed, blew him and his copilot out of the sky.
In all, the dying cobra had managed to let off five unguided rockets which landed in an arc starting 15 meters away coming in towards the sub. The water erupted with a huge spray as each rocket bounced off the water-once- and exploded. They all missed the sail, but the fourth rocket exploded very close to the rear of the submarine, blowing the top rudder, badly bending the starboard rudder and cracking and bending one of the propeller blades.
Ajay shot and sunk the Gemini boats as the men scampered aboard. A diver confirmed the damage – the hull was intact, but the sub would list to the starboard if it moved – the other rudder will make up for the tilt somewhat. They would not be able to travel at high speeds, and the propeller would make much more noise. They dived, after an encrypted signal was sent out describing their situation.
2 hours and 50 Kms later, the sonar officer reported an acoustic anomaly that had appeared a few minutes back several Kms at a vector bearing 5 ‘O clock, slowly closing. It was difficult for the sonar IFF to recognize the acoustic signature over the damaged propeller’s noise. The Shankul stopped allowing better characterization of the echo. The echo was identified as the propeller wake from an Agosta submarine, about 80 Kms away, headed right towards then on an intercept course.
Nair was afraid of two things –
1. His sub was not exactly fighting fit tonight. He couldn’t – wouldn’t make a run for it.
2. He was carrying precious cargo. These boys had risked their lives getting it - one of them he wasn’t sure would make it.
He couldn’t contact the fleet from this depth, to blow high pressure air into the ballast tanks to surface would produce so much noise, they’d be locked on by the Pakis. He had to go deeper into the ocean, out into the open sea where the might of the Indian navy lay waiting – but this problem at hand would have to be dealt with. The old foxtrot subs were the first undersea vessels in the Indian navy. The foxtrots may have passed onto obsolescence, but they had rear facing torpedo tubes – On the foxtrot he could have made a run for it and taken out the Paki. He would have to turn around, a task made more difficult because of the damage his rudders had taken. His only hope lay in stealth and surprise. His torpedoes would do the rest – His AEG-SUT Mod-2 wire-guided, torpedo at 28 – 30 Km out reached the 20 Km Pakistani ECAN F17 Mod 2 torpedoes on the Agostas.
He did four things.
1. Ordered the Marcos team and the Scientist into the rescue pod – Just in case.
2. Loaded and flooded tubes 2 through 7.
3. Reduced speed to a stealthier 3 Knots - full stealth- Passive sonar only.
4. Changed course to a new heading. He was looking for what the submariners referred to as the ‘Rajpath to Karachi’, a 600 foot wide and deep trench on the ocean floor, that curved clockwise and ran 800 Kms to emerge somewhere in the vicinity of the Diu group of islands. For nearly two decades this was the highway to pakistan that Indian subs took. It provided a rapid, silent, ingress and egress route. Added was the fact that the relatively colder water in the trench would aid him in avoiding the enemy’s sonar long enough for him to make his move.
The Pakistani did not change course with him. “Good. Looks like, they lost us for a while.”
“Trench 2145 dead ahead Sir. 3 Kms approx”
“Helmsman, Take us down, depth 400 (ft), turn starboard 2400s SW.”
“Weapons control, I want target data fed to the tubes every 10 seconds.”
“Easy as she goes”
The sub made the slow and wide 1800 turn.
“All stop.” “Sonar, where is it?”
The Agosta appeared on the sonar, 100 feet up, passing nearly perpendicular, going away from them at 35 Kms.
“This is it” “Helmsman, follow target, max speed. Weapons officer, stand by.”
INS Shankul shuddered, as the propeller pushed her to 16 knots and beyond, she started to list starboard (the bent starboard rudder coming into play as the sub cut the water).
“30” “29”, “The Agosta is turning, she’s seen us!”
“Weapons officer, fire tubes 2 and 6, max speed active homing”
“24” With a loud whoosh, the two torpedoes jumped out into the ocean, screaming down towards their target like hungry sharks at 40 knots.
15 seconds later “The Pakistanis are firing”
Nair shouted “Deploy countermeasures. Helmsman full astern, starboard 300. Weapons- fire tubes 3 and 7 active homing” “Ship, brace for impact!”
Two canisters, the size of petrol drums ejected from the submarine, emitting shrill noises, drowning the submarine’s acoustic signature, attempting to ‘blind out’ the incoming torpedoes. The Agosta did the same.
In a boxing match, the guy with the longer arm can rain down punches at his adversary without letting him into his area of comfort. This high tech battle for naval supremacy had been reduced to a pugilist encounter – the guy with the longer punch won, more so because his punches landed on target, most of the time. The enemy did reach him, his punches grazing by.
In the end, the Shankul survived because her countermeasures had worked splendidly, although she had limped to evade the incoming torpedo. One torpedo passed her, then exploded. The second had a better bearing of things, and exploded 50 meters from her, damaging her port side rudder, and the rear port-side ballast tank. The engine room caught fire and at least ten crewmen suffered burns and inhalation injuries. Most would make it. The Agosta managed to evade the lead torpedo with her countermeasures, and agility. But the rest of the salvo rammed into her, ripping her into two pieces. Death came mercifully and swiftly to the 30 odd on board.
The undersea racket had been picked up by vessels far and wide. While the Pakistani vessels rushed to the area, the arrival of INS veer, and the radar sweeps of INS Rajput in the vicinity made them change their mind and thy retreated into the Indus delta. All done and exhausted, INS Shankul surfaced. The sun had just begun to rise on the Arabian, it was going to be a clear day. Cdr. Nair watched a shoal of dolphins cavort in the water around his sub as they slowly proceeded to a rendezvous with the Veer. The Rajput arrived a little later, and airlifted the wounded to shore. The MARCOS team left the Shankul after tearful goodbyes to debriefing. There were many more battles to come, the war had just begun.
1. The Satellite decoder gave valuable help to the Indian war effort. Dr. Khan proved to be very useful, when Indian soldiers finally walked into KRL and other military installations of the former Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
2. The Shankul’s headed straight for Mazagaon dockyards for her midlife refit. By the time she was in the water again, the war was over. Cdr. Nair had to endure a two month period of chowkidari, overseeing the repair work of his vessel. Then one fine day he was flown to Admiralty Shipyards in southern Russia to take command of the latest edition of a gleaming new version of a ‘Fresh water Spike’.
3. Both the Air launched Brahmos had missed the Precision Targeting Module (PRITAM). The first landed 2.5 meters away, blowing the module (and the Bunker of course with the lowly - conventional warhead Ghauri missile inside) to kingdom come. The second missile, deciding that the primary target had been done gone, rammed into the next juiciest thing around – four large tanks loaded with fuel in the periphery of Camp Ormara. The fire that raged, burned for a week.
The boys at DRDO, analyzed the results of the flight. The skeptics, who thought that the PRITAM would fail, had a great laugh, until a tweaked version demonstrated its effectiveness, and was inducted into the armed forces to be used in special ops.
4. Major Ehsan Mallick survived the Brahmos because he was in the ditch. He recuperated in the military hospital for a week, when two officers from his regiment came and got him discharged. He was never seen or heard from – ever.
5. The Pakistani media went overboard with the story of their navy having sunk one Indian submarine, making the score one all.
6. Gen. Kareen Khan figured it all out. Just because he had been dragging his feet transferring technology to them, these Al Quaida guys had dared kidnap one of his scientists. It was only because unkil’s snoops had descended upon him like dogs. And the new 5.56 mm arms they were using – they were procuring weapons from an alternate source, and not from his cousin’s weapons factory in pindi. He ordered his ADC to get the ‘Sheikh’s’ personal security officer to his office. He would give him a thorough dressing down.
7. Ramanna underwent the surgery at Naval Hospital Mumbai. He was later shifted to R & R Hospital, New Delhi. After a two month ICU stay (including one month on the ventilator) he walked out. Endless rounds of physiotherapy later, he was shifted to a desk job at Nau Sena Headquarters, because of a stiff left shoulder – He would never be in the special forces again. Three years later he won Silver at the World Shooting Championships in the Air Rifle segment. Afeequl Ansari of Sindhudesh came in fifth. The rivalry would live on…